Word for Word: The Ginger Man goes to Electric Picnic

JP Donleavy at Stradbally, Margaret Atwood at Mountains to Sea, and other literary highlights around Ireland in September

Heading the Dún Laoghaire line-up: Margaret Atwood. Photograph: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Heading the Dún Laoghaire line-up: Margaret Atwood. Photograph: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

 

Electric Picnic is on this weekend, and if you’re at Stradbally, the Co Laois estate that hosts the festival, you might want to check out some of the events in the Arts Council Literary Tent. There’s a rare chance to hear JP Donleavy: 87 this year, and still writing, he will be on hand to mark the 50th anniversary of his picaresque masterpiece, The Ginger Man.

The Grass Arena, John Healy’s brilliant memoir about the years he spent as a homeless alcoholic in London, is 25 years old this year; Healy will be reading from it. There are some nifty writer-musician combos to be heard, too – Paul Murray (Skippy Dies) with Lisa Hannigan; Eoin Colfer with Pierce Turner – as well as lots of other writers doing their thing, John Boyne, Mike McCormack and Donal Ryan among them; electricpicnic.ie.


September is Mountains to Sea month – the Dún Laoghaire festival runs from the 3rd to the 8th. Heading the line-up is the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood (below), who will be reading from her latest novel, MaddAddam. The Palestinian writer, lawyer and human-rights activist Raja Shehadeh is also a guest; he’ll be talking about his life and work, including his latest book, Occupation Diaries, which was shortlisted for this year’s Orwell Prize. The Irish contingent includes Colum McCann, Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright, and there are events such as a recording of RTÉ’s Sunday Miscellany, the Dún Laoghaire Project, a bilingual poetry show with readings and plenty of workshops and family and teen events too.

Mountains to Sea also includes Poetry Now, which is in its 17th year. The international contingent includes the Dutch poet laureate, Anne Vegter, the American poet, writer and translator John Balaban and the American-born, London- based Jane Yeh. The Irish heavy hitters are headed by Eavan Boland and Michael Longley.

As usual we can acquaint ourselves with the best new Irish collections of poems via the Irish Times Poetry Now Award and the Strong/Shine Award, presented to the author of the best first collection of poems; mountainstosea.ie.

We will have a bit of breathing space after Mountains to Sea before Culture Night, on September 20th. It’s just as well: it will be a busy one, with many literature-based events in the packed programme. The Irish Writers’ Centre, Dublin Writers’ Museum, Fighting Words, Big Smoke Writing Factory and the school of languages, literatures and cultural studies at Trinity College Dublin all have plans for the evening, and Poetry Ireland will have an open-mic session in the lovely, suitably crumbly and atmospheric Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland again this year. Lots more is on offer, in the city centre and around the country, and it’s all free; culturenight.ie.

The 2013 Cork International Short Story Festival takes place from September 18th to 22nd, with guests including Deborah Levy, Michèle Roberts, Alistair McLeod, Steven Heighton and Manuel Gonzales, and the presentation of the Seán O’Faolain Short Story Prize; corkshortstory.net.

Finally, “All the way to Bantry Bay . . . and other journeys” is the tagline for this year’s Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend, on September 13th-15th, which concentrates on travel and writing. It’s at the Strule Arts Centre, in Omagh, Co Tyrone, where the impressive list of travel writers participating includes Dervla Murphy and Manchán Magan;
struleartscentre.co.uk.

Cathy Dillon is an Irish Times journalist

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